Was your New Year goal to gain competitive advantage by the end of this year? The good news is that with half the year remaining, there is still time to implement the top business trends for 2021. Read on to learn how to give your business a competitive edge and position it for growth.
Position your business for growth in 2021
1. Prioritize e-commerce
Create a seamless e-commerce experience for your customers by making your site mobile-friendly.
2. Implement alternative payment options
In their annual State of Retail Payments study, the National Retail Federation found that no-touch payments (contactless credit and debit cards or mobile pay) for retailers have increased by 69% since January 2020. And, 94% of retailers expect the increase to continue through 2021 and into at least mid-2022. Heading into next year, explore touchless payment options for your small business, including online payments (with curbside pickup for restaurants and retailers).
Another great way to offer your customers contactless payments is to choose an online appointment scheduling software program that enables payment right within the scheduler. EZnet Scheduler® has that built-in capability, and it works with any payment authorization gateway. As a result, your customers can pay for your products and services at the time they schedule their appointment with you.
3. Implement work-from-home
During the pandemic, many businesses shifted to part-time or full-time remote work. For many of them, the new work-from-home paradigm has led to increased productivity, lower absenteeism and attrition and increased revenue and profits. Now that there are some distance and lessons learned from that initial experiment, most businesses are now rethinking their entire business model. One of the questions they’re asking themselves is “Do we really still need physical office space?”
According to a survey by Intermedia, 57% of small to medium-sized business (SMB) owners said they will continue to offer remote work options in the long term. Depending on your type of business, you may need to consider offering remote work options to compete for talented workers in the remainder of 2021 and beyond. Moreover, to fully accommodate your remote staff, you may want to think about investing in additional technology and software solutions that support telework. Many companies offer a one-time remote office setup stipend to their remote workers.
4. Offer virtual services
The pandemic has led to an increased demand for virtual appointments, particularly in certain business types such as technology, health and fitness. These include cybersecurity, at-home fitness training, food delivery, gaming and telemedicine. Just as has been the case with remote work, virtual appointments enable companies to increase revenue and profits. EZnet Scheduler® is the perfect software tool for this trend, as it automates the appointment scheduling, confirmation, notification and reminder process.
Moreover, EZnet Scheduler easily manages complex, overlapping appointments. The software does all the work so you don’t have to.
5. View data as an asset
Businesses that leverage data to better understand their customers and to improve their decision-making are clearly the ones that are outperforming everyone else. Cloud solutions allow us to access data from anywhere. As a result, businesses need to protect and secure data as they would any other asset. Another important thing for businesses to consider is how to boost data literacy in their companies. In doing so, they will glean decision-making insights from the data they gather and analyze.
6. Use automation to streamline processes
Businesses are rethinking their processes and workforce with the goal of streamlining operations. There have already been quite a few shifts in this direction from warehouses, supply chains, autonomous vehicles, trucks, and ships, as well as chatbots that automatically take over customer service inquiries and online appointment schedulers that automate appointment scheduling as well as appointment confirmations, notifications and reminders. The best schedulers enable businesses to offer 24/7 self-scheduling to their customers, 70% of which actually demand that capability from the businesses and healthcare providers they choose. EZnet Scheduler enables that, plus much more.
7. Use virtual interfaces to offer services
As companies have raced to find new ways of delivering service to customers who were not shopping in stores during the pandemic, they have begun to consider how to deliver some of the services in digital forms using technology such as augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR), and mixed reality (MR). For example, consumers are now able to use virtual avatars to “try on” cosmetics, eyewear and clothing prior to purchase. Ultimately, this “try before you buy” with virtual interfaces will continue transform how some businesses offer their services.
8. Drive personalization with AI and big data
Two technologies businesses won’t be able to get away from in 2021 are artificial intelligence (AI) and data analytics. They really do go together like a hand and a glove to enable businesses to not only collect massive troves of data, but to also use machine learning to make sense of that data. The insights to be gained can be used to develop better target marketing campaigns and find fine tune efficiencies in internal processes.
9. Implement a company Covid vaccination policy
As the Delta COVID-19 variant continues to generate troves of new infections, the vaccine will become more and more important. Businesses will need to develop internal policies regarding vaccination requirements for employees. And there is no time like the present for entrepreneurs and small business owners to begin crafting a policy, especially given the Delta variant that threatens to shut us down as the cold autumn weather approaches in a few months.
Of course, all local, state and federal regulations must be followed when developing such a policy, so it’s best for small businesses to hire an attorney who can craft a compliant policy.
Larger companies and colleges/universities should consider implementing on-site vaccination. EZcovid Scheduling™ helps companies and schools manage the vaccination of their staff (or in the case of schools, faculty, students and administrative personnel) as well as hire trained, fully-vetted vaccination administration personnel on a temporary, part-time or permanent basis.
10. Develop a business continuity plan
Flexible businesses that are run by openminded owners are better suited to adapt to unforeseen circumstances than those who reply more on no-longer-applicable practices. This isn’t to say that all flexible businesses can successfully implement change. But to be sure, during the Covid pandemic, many have done so through exciting and innovative ideas. As a result, they are in a strong position for future growth.
While there are many ways to prepare for and adapt to the unexpected, a top priority should be the development of a business continuity plan (BCP). A BCP is a document that outlines how a business will continue operating during an unexpected disruption in service. It’s a proactive way of overcoming unexpected challenges and business hurdles. With Google searches for ‘business continuity plan’ increasing by a jaw-dropping 600%, this trend will likely continue to rise throughout the remainder 2021. BCP is a positive means of owners regaining a sense of control over their businesses.